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Smart cities have happy citizens, says FIRA Barcelona CEO Ricard Zapatero

The smart cities movement is encouraging citizens to articulate what they want from cities they inhabit

Vandana Ramnani @vandanaramnani1

Vandana Ramnani

Moneycontrol News 

"Smart cities are not only about being happy cities, they are also all about happy citizens," said Ricard Zapatero, developer of International Smart Cities Expo and CEO of FIRA Barcelona International, against the backdrop of the first-ever Smart Cities Expo to take place in Asia in Jaipur.

The theme of the expo was Smart India: Making it Happen. The three-day event saw participation of as many as 122 exhibitors, 69 startups and 2,600 delegates. Its focus was to identify specific solutions to address the challenges cities face, especially in areas of innovation, technology, digital governance, social development, clean tech and circular economy, the future of mobility and urban planning and smart villages. And the man who was behind it all is Zapatero.

He has 15 years’ experience in the events and congress industry and has organised over 600 trade fair events in all economic sectors around the world. Moneycontrol caught up with him for a chat:

It’s for the first time that the Smart Cities Expo is being held in India and in Asia. Does FIRA Barcelona plan on taking the Expo to other cities in the near future?

FIRA Barcelona has been holding the Smart Cities World Congress since 2011. It is the most important event around the world on smart cities solutions. We have been organising regional editions of this event in all parts of the world – we have been three times in Mexico, we have been to Canada, we are in Argentina, in Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, in Japan and this year, for the first time in India, in Jaipur. We have the will to showcase all the projects and urban reforms that India is leading because India is now taking a lead in the development of smart cities. We have the support of the Rajasthan government and the central government for our initiative. Our will is to continue holding this event in Jaipur for the next few years. This is our intention, but ultimately the decision will be of the hosting governments.

What opportunities can cities look forward to by holding an event such as this one?

An event such as the Smart City Expo provides a platform for companies, including startups, that offer products and services solutions to cities and the city administration. I can say this is a fantastic platform for cities and people who have success stories to share in creating smart cities. It is this platform that brings cities together, it is an event where city administration officials and experts get to share their problems, challenges they faced while developing smart cities. It is an event that brings all stakeholders together under one roof to build new solutions for cities. A platform like this has three objectives – inspiring everybody in terms of building and using new technologies to make life better for citizens, showcasing trends and objectives. It is an event where companies and city administration officials get to meet under a common platform, share experiences and look for win-win agreements. In India, Smart City Expo can play a very important role in citizen engagement.

How big are smart cities in terms of business opportunities?

Enormous opportunities that smart cities bring with them are huge. Nobody knows the exact figure. Imagine all the cities in the world putting solutions in place on mobility, waste management, traffic control, social buildings – the number of projects they drive around the world is huge. It’s all about integrating new technologies with the help of companies such as Cisco and others. India right now is driving urban change encouraged by the government’s 100 Smart Cities initiative. One can imagine the opportunity in terms of the number of projects that are being executed by each of the 100 smart cities. It’s about big investments, big opportunities and big things to come. India is just at the beginning of this urban renaissance, so the future opportunities are enormous.

While Indian smart cities have a lot to learn from global smart cities such as Barcelona, what is it that international cities can learn from India?

The commitment of the Indian government to drive smart cities projects, push cities to bring investments, is what we have to learn from you. The coordinated efforts of the state and the central governments to make these projects come through is a massive learning. Being here and seeing how all the levels of government collaborate is something which sets an example for many countries in the world.

Are smart cities, besides being liveable cities, also happy cities?

The public needs to be engaged and citizens need to come up with suggestions. Smart cities need smart citizens. We believe citizens know their cities best. We are just a catalyst and a facilitator to bring global experiences and knowledge on one platform. Whatever is executed by the city administration should be aimed at making citizens happy. Smart cities are not only about being happy cities they are also all about happy citizens. Events such as these make us sensitive and aware of what citizens want.

The smart cities movement and citizen engagement is encouraging people to articulate what they want from cities they inhabit. It makes them demand from the government the city administration better traffic control management systems, better street lighting and other things.

Events such as the smart cities expo can make citizens more aware. Can make them react to say ‘Hey, I know things can be a lot better. I know you should have asphalt or concrete that is not noisy for the vendor. I know there could have an app where you could see whether the bus is coming and how much longer I would I have to wait for it. I know these things exist, so you the administration should think of putting this in place to make me happier. If I know that the bus is arriving after 5 minutes, I don’t have to wait there for 30 minutes.’

This is a movement that the smart cities are now leading. People now know what can be done or should be done by the city administration.
First Published on Sep 29, 2018 03:12 pm
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